A method is disclosed for forming an inclusion-free silica substrate using a monocrystalline silicon substrate as the starting material and oxidizing the silicon substrate to convert it entirely to silica. The oxidation process is performed from both major surfaces of the silicon substrate using a conventional high-pressure oxidation system. The resulting product is an amorphous silica substrate which is expected to have superior etching characteristics for microfabrication than conventional fused silica substrates. The present invention can also be used to convert only a portion of a monocrystalline silicon substrate to silica by masking the silicon substrate and locally thinning a portion the silicon substrate prior to converting the silicon portion entirely to silica. In this case, the silica formed by oxidizing the thinned portion of the silicon substrate can be used, for example, as a window to provide optical access through the silicon substrate.